The conflicting and multiple statements issued by military and civilian officials after President Duterte declared the termination of the government’s peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF have unwittingly created ambiguity that confused the public.
On Friday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through its spokesman, Maj. General Restituto Padilla, Jr., declared a nationwide war against the armed wing of the communist movement, the New People’s Army. He said this means the AFP will conduct focused military operations to neutralize the communist insurgents.
That is an operational response to the President’s Proclamation 360, which halted all peace negotiations by the government with the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party.
The situation on its face at first looked clear. There would be no more talks with the communist negotiators. Consequently, there would be renewed hostilities between government and the armed communist forces.
While the nation was still digesting this dramatic turn of events, various side developments also ensued.
First, Senate President Aquino Pimentel 3rd said the Senate would serve as a bridge for unofficial talks between the two sides. There would be no complete refusal of talks, if Koko and other senators could help it.
Second, the AFP spokesman also contributed to the confusion. He declared at the same conference, where he announced an all-out war, that the military would continue to campaign, together with local government units (LGUs) for peace talks, because even though the formal talks at the national level had ended, the LGUs and the AFP would join forces to persuade rebels still in the mountains to return to the fold of the law and society.
Third, the AFP has announced that the communist detainees who were temporarily released so they could serve as NDF consultants during the peace talks, would now be rearrested. To this, DU30 has added the warning the stern warning that Jose Maria Sison, the CPP Supremo, would be arrested if he returned to the country.
Meanwhile, the communist camp has been assiduous in issuing statements blaming Duterte for the collapse of the talks. They accused DU30 of being the top terrorist in the country, in return for his declaration that the communist rebels were terrorists.
To be sure, name-calling is infinitely preferable to outright hostilities and bloodletting. But the cacophony of confusing pronouncements exemplifies neither clarity nor lucidity. The media and the public may find it even harder now to visualize the direction in which the communist insurgency is headed after five decades of fighting with the government.
As far as the President and the AFP are concerned, the talks are over. To the Senate, it appears the talks can be revived any time. To the CPP-NPA-NDF, they have yet to be formally notified by the government that there will be no more talking.
The situation belongs to the side that will seize the day and hammer it into shape salutary to the Filipino nation.
Amid the conflicting signals and portents, we will hazard our reading of the unfolding future. To everything there is a season, as the Holy Book reminds us. This is the time, we daresay and hope, to end completely the communist insurgency in the country.